Since 1957, a succession of three outstanding Bradley alumni from Peoria have held the same seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. All were present in January for the swearing-in of AARON SCHOCK ’02.
There must be something in the water on the campus of Bradley University that produces outstanding congressional leadership. For 52 years and counting, an alumnus of Bradley University has represented the 18th Congressional District in Illinois.
On January 6, AARON SCHOCK ’02 was sworn in as the youngest member in the 111th Congress. Schock, age 27, succeeded RAY LAHOOD ’71 who served the 18th District for 14 years. Before him, BOB MICHEL ’48 HON ’81 served the heartland for 38 years with great distinction in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Schock’s swearing-in reception and dinner celebration was held in the Member’s Room in the Library of Congress, one of the most beautiful and stunning public buildings in all of America. More than 100 family, friends, supporters, and dignitaries attended. Schock welcomed everyone to the celebration and spoke of previous Illinois representatives in Congress — from Abraham Lincoln to Everett Dirksen to Bob Michel to Ray LaHood. He acknowledged how the responsibility of representing this legacy with integrity weighed heavy on him, thanked Bob Michel for joining him on the House Floor for his swearing-in, and then invited him to say a few words.
To enthusiastic applause, Bob Michel, who served with 10 Presidents and had a front-row seat to the last 50 years of U.S. history, approached the podium. With deep emotion, he said that the “experiences of the day and evening brought exuberance to my heart…over 50 years ago, I took my first oath as a new member of Congress.” He joked that he holds the record for losing the most elections for Speaker of the House (seven times). Bob Michel was the longest-standing Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving in that capacity with the highest integrity and honor for 14 years.
He then spoke of the great qualities he sees in Aaron Schock, including the ability to work well with others across party lines and his obvious ability to connect with people. “Shoot, Ray and I never had so many folks from central Illinois come out for our swearing-ins.” With tears beginning to form in his 85-year-old eyes, Mr. Michel closed by saying, “This is the culmination of so many good things in my life.” He wished Rep. Schock all the best in his new position. The audience gave him a long and well-deserved standing ovation.
Congressman Schock then introduced Ray LaHood, praising him for doing a great job of representing the 18th Congressional District. He said he was thrilled that LaHood would be serving our country as the new secretary of transportation. As he headed to the podium, Mr. LaHood, the first Bradley alumnus appointed to a Cabinet post, received an enthusiastic standing ovation. He praised his successor as a very smart, hard-working young man who will do great things for the 18th District and for our country. Mr. LaHood also asked the audience to put aside partisan leanings and pray for President Barack Obama to be successful, saying, “If he succeeds, America succeeds.” Finally, LaHood pointed to the U.S. Capitol Building that was illuminating through the eight-foot arched windows and said, “The Capitol is the beacon for freedom, hope, and opportunity, and our democracy is the best in the world. I predict Aaron Schock will become one of the brightest stars.”
The program ended with the new congressman asking for our prayers and asking us to keep him humble. “The country faces big challenges and the responsibility is great. I will try to find common-ground solutions for the people I represent,” said Schock.
It was truly a historical evening — a passing of the congressional baton to the next generation of leadership. The Bradley University family should be proud of the legacy of principled congressmen that the Hilltop has produced.
Brad McMillan is executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University. He serves on the new Illinois Reform Commission. Before coming to Bradley in 2007, he was District Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood.
RAY LAHOOD ’71
RAY LAHOOD ’71, the 16th United States secretary of transportation, is the first Bradley University alumnus to hold a Cabinet position. A full Senate confirmed LaHood by voice vote on January 22, and the Peoria native, who retired from his 14-year Congressional career by not running for re-election in 2008, now finds himself back at work on Capitol Hill, leading an agency of more than 55,000 employees, with a $70 billion budget. President Barack Obama, the former Illinois Democratic senator who chose the experienced Illinois Republican said, “Few understand our infrastructure challenges better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation.”
Secretary LaHood went straight to work. On February 4, he announced the creation of a new team, TIGER, at the Department of Transportation (DOT) to coordinate the department’s role in the economic recovery program. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery team’s purpose is to ensure the DOT’s recovery funds are distributed quickly to immediately create jobs, strengthen the economy, and improve the transportation system. The team will identify, prioritize, and track highway, bridge, transit, rail, and aviation spending, while ensuring accountability.
“I am thrilled to be part of the Obama team to help the President carry out his agenda on an infrastructure stimulus plan to create jobs,” said LaHood. “I hope this summer we see a lot of people out building bridges and roads using Caterpillar equipment.”
The 2008 Distinguished Alumnus/Bradley Centurion and his wife KATHY LAHOOD, MBA ’87, have four children and seven grandchildren. They plan to keep residences in Peoria and in the Washington, D.C., area.